LA BÁSCULA, HONDURAS
We’re delighted to bring you this beautiful honey processed coffee grown by Suita Diaz – a long-time friend of IKAWA.
Suita’s family farm La Báscula is part of Café Orgánico Marcala – better known as COMSA cooperative representing thousands of coffee farming families in the Marcala region.
The honey processed coffee in this bag is from the first ever nano-lot produced by her farm, which is leading the way in the region in transitioning to speciality coffee.
We’ve found it makes for a fantastic espresso with notes of dark chocolate and complex spices, and is great as a filter coffee with our medium roast recipe.
Here’s the story behind it.
We first met Suita when she was in London shortly after completing her Masters Degree for which she had received a scholarship. She comes from a family with five generations of coffee farming and has grown up around coffee production and trading in the domestic market since a child.
While she was in the UK, she extended her knowledge of coffee deep into the ‘consumer’ side of the supply chain, getting to fully understand how its imported, purchased by roasteries and consumed. We met her at London Coffee Festival, and took her on as an intern for the summer where she organised our first ever selection event of green coffee for IKAWA At Home – you’ll see her on this video we made for our Kickstarter backers at the time.
Now we’ve gone full circle and have the pleasure of bringing you Suita’s coffee.
Coffee from Pajaritales, in the Yoro region has typically been grown and traded as a commodity whereby farmers are simply paid on volume – rather than for its quality. Better quality coffee only matters to the farmer if the coffee can actually be sold based on that quality, so market access is key here – and one reason Suita and this coffee are an exceptional.
The name of Suita’s family farm – La Báscula – means scales – the tool used to measure the coffee cherries provided by coffee farmers when they are sold – and therefore the income to the farmer. It represents fairness, honesty and close connection to those in remote areas, aligning with Suita’s personal values and at the heart of what she is working toward achieving in the region.
She decided to use her knowledge from traveling the world and learning about speciality coffee and best practice, to make the coffee, and production processes a beacon in the region and discover how to realise the full potential of coffee her coffee.
By spending time creating ‘best-practice’ and validating that through selling to the outside world, Suita aims to create a blueprint in the area and train other farmers so their coffees can also achieve higher quality, ‘speciality’ status and ultimately support the economic development of the region.
This nano-lot from La Báscula farm is the result of the first trial to prepare speciality coffee. We’re excited about the favour profile, and also look forward to following the progress Suita makes to find the best combination of agronomy and processing to optimize the potential of the coffee.
The sorts of changes that have been implemented include
Proactively managing irrigation to the farm – there is a scarcity of water and no natural source, so rainwater has to be carefully collected and used to irrigate the coffee. The rain-water is also used for living on the farm – ie washing up etc, and Ivan the farm manager has to bring water up from his home in the valley for cooking, and for depulping the coffee!
The farm is organic, and the soil is very rich in minerals, but will benefit from more nurturing. There are a lot of exposed rocks and not too much top-soil, so Suita has planted a lot of plantain trees which help to produce more organic matter and nutrients, as well as providing shade and diversifying farm income.
Recruiting and Training of workers – in this region many of the younger generation have moved to the cities, and older generations are used to doing things ‘the traditional’ way – which works for commodity coffee, but not for speciality – training is needed to ensure that cherries are only picked when ripe. After harvest, the picked cherries had a ‘second pass’ where they were checked again, and any unripe, overripe or damaged cherries were removed to ensure only the ripe cherries are included.
Processing and Drying the coffee – Suita decided to use Honey processing for this coffee as a way to get optimal flavour. Given lack of water at the farm, its difficult to make a great tasting washed coffee, and a making a natural is very risky in their climate as it could easily be affected by rain and dampness which would ruin the crop – so Honey is the ideal process for her now.
Investment in Infrastructure – the farm has a small wet mill, but to help improve quality, they built a raised and covered drying space – this allows airflow through the coffees, and for them to be covered if it rains.
This shows how much effort and knowledge is needed to change coffee from commodity to speciality grade, and we’re looking forward to following the progress Suita makes at her farm and in the Pajaritales.
We know you will enjoy it.